Interview: Vendor's strategy runs its own gauntlet

All data might be created equal but how long does it stay that way and who wants to keep paying top prices to house it when it's old and dull but still on the must-keep list? These are the issues StorageTek is addressing in the information life-cycle management (ILM) strategy it is selling to IT managers now. Computerworld's Gabrielle Wheeler asked if the company had put ILM to the acid test and tried it in-house. Bill Veigele, director, IT operations IS, explains.

Q. What departments, business processes or business units were the first to implement ILM?

Our IT organisation is rolling out an ILM strategy for internal systems and information. We have implemented Application Storage Manager (ASM) for engineering data management and have also deployed Email Xcelerator to more than 100 users, with plans to deploy it to 3200 people this year. We used ASM to archive large engineering files such as code builds and state saves. While it is very active this data resides on 9176 Disk Subsytem. After a period of time and inactivity, the data is migrated to 9840A and 9840B tape drives residing in a PowderHorn 9310 tape library. Recalls of the data from tape are completely automated.

Q. What processes became outmoded as a result?

This solution has eliminated the need for a tremendous amount of manual disk management by both IT personnel and engineers. We have also saved several terabytes of expensive, enterprise-class disk.

We implemented Email Xcelerator for about 100 heavy e-mail users. By the second quarter it will be deployed to 3200 people. With this deployment, users have unlimited mailbox sizes. This is accomplished without allocating additional enterprise-class disk. Xcelerator uses ASM to migrate e-mail data to 9840 automated tape.

Recalls of archived e-mails are completely automated and occur in less than one minute. This solution has relieved e-mail users from large amounts of time managing e-mail folders and inboxes.

We have also realised cost savings for disk. Because of this solution, STK's IT organisation has allocated no money in the 2003 budget for additional e-mail disks and it has also enabled us to consolidate e-mail servers into the corporate data centre, creating a more efficient and safer environment for e-mail assets.

Audit requirements are creating a need for an SAP data archival solution for the company. Our architecture calls for using the BladeStore disk subsystem to house the data that has been archived. We can eliminate system outage to do this by using a SnapShot feature. At some point the archived information will be moved to tape using ASM. Once again, we will realise savings on enterprise disk and solve an audit issue using this solution.

Oracle backups: We currently use a BMC product, SQL-BackTrack for Oracle, to back up our Oracle databases. This product works in two stages, data is first backed up to disk and then swept to tape. We will be using BladeStore as the staging disk in this solution.

Q. Who was responsible for 'selling' the concept to get the project started?

The director of IT operations presented the business case to our corporate capital allocation committee, consisting of the CFO and VP of Global Supply Chain.

Q. What were the convincing arguments?

There was no resistance to ASM; it had a strong ROI based on disk savings.

We attempted to sell Xcelerator based on productivity gains. This was a tougher sell without a hard ROI. Once we were able to architect ASM as a part of our E-mail Xcelerator solution, I was able to get approval based on disk savings.

Q. How much culture shock or change resulted?

Our ASM solution generated some resistance from the engineering group. It was a change to a process that had been in place for many years and therefore they were hesitant to let us implement ASM. Once we demonstrated that the solution worked, was reliable and only impacted their productivity in a positive way, they were happy. Xcelerator has been received extremely positively by the initial 100 users. We do not expect resistance to this solution. However, training on the e-mail solution is necessary to ensure productivity advantages are realised.

Q. What was the implementation's impact?

Productivity has definitely increased for IT admins as well as engineers due to our ASM implementation. We estimate that at least two people have been freed up from manual disk management as a result. We will save about $US500,000 a year by not purchasing additional disks due to the ASM and e-mail solutions. People are very happy with the e-mail solution as they have seen personal productivity improvements and especially like not getting the 'your mailbox has exceeded its size limit' messages.

Q. How hard was it to 'sell' ILM to the next business unit or was it done as an all-company project? Has ILM been taken to global subsidiaries?

ILM is being deployed by the IT organisation as a company-wide, global initiative. Since we are StorageTek, we like to use our own products and solutions for ILM and were able to complete these plans [using only our own] and partner products and solutions. It's nice to have our entire ILM strategy covered by one supplier.

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